Project Overview: District 9

Inspired by the weaponry of the brilliant sci-fi film District 9, Florian Fargeot shares how he modeled and textured his latest piece in Maya and Mari.

Introduction

The release of Mari 2.0 and the numerous novelties that came with it prompted me to design this image to see what I could get out of it.

As a huge sci-fi fan, District 9 was, in my opinion one, of the best films of the genre that we've seen in these last five years. Having taken a particular liking to the original design (beautiful work by Weta), what better training could there be than to make one of the signature weapons from the movie?

As a starting point, I had to find a reference, and as this rifle only appears in a few shots, finding detailed images was quite a tall order.

They are a few variations to this gun, and eventually I chose the black version, which sadly doesn't actually appear in the film.

Reference images of the weapon

Reference images of the weapon

As luck would have, I was delightfully surprised to stumble upon the official alien font during my research process, which saved me a considerable amount of precious time during the texturing process.

Alien font from <em>District 9</em>

Alien font from District 9

Modeling

The modeling process was rather straight forward, with a simple layout based on primitives, which were gradually replaced by the definitive model.

Everything was done in Maya, using polygonal modeling. I indulged in a couple of changes to the original model, my goal being more about working on the textures than the modeling aspects.

Weapon model and wireframe

Weapon model and wireframe

Once I'd completed the modeling part, I started the UV work. I cut the model up into six parts, which would become the six Udims.

Model separated into six Udims

Model separated into six Udims

This allowed me to define different resolutions depending on the relative importance of the weapon's different sections: 8k for the main body, 4k and 2k for the rest.

The different resolutions of the weapon's sections

The different resolutions of the weapon's sections

Before embarking on the Mari part, one last important phase was necessary: the occlusion baking, cavity and convexity, which would come in very handy when it came to the texturing part.

Texturing

Once all of these aspects were completed, it was time to get started with Mari. The upgrades brought about with the 2.0 release are fabulous, and I really recommend downloading the trial version to anyone still hesitant about making the leap to the next version (and no, I don't work for the Foundry!).

The first step was starting with the "basic" colors, i.e. the painting, the alien logos and the metalwork.

Basic colors

Basic colors

Once this step was completed, it was time to apply the metal scratches. Between the procedural layer mixing, creating scratches manually, and plating photos, this was quite a long process.

Metal scratches

Metal scratches

Last but not least, I had to create the different dirt effects. The main problem with this has a lot to do with the fact that rifles often have too much of a "plastic" feel to them for my taste, which forced me to look for extremely varied references for different materials in order to build on something solid.

Dirt effects

Dirt effects

All of this combined gave me the final version of the color process.

Final version of the color process

Final version of the color process

Now that all the color part was done, it was time for the specular and glossiness phases. As Mari is non-destructive, all I had to do was copy the entire color channel across, and work on the different treatments to apply to it, which give me the final specular and glossiness render effects.

The final color channel

The final color channel

The final specular and glossiness render effects

One very light bump map and a specular color were used to finalize the process.

Mari's viewpoint is really powerful and allows for real-time control of its maps in a very practical way, which saves a considerable amount of time during this phase.

Mari's real-time map control in action

Mari's real-time map control in action

Lighting

Now that the texturing aspect was done, it was time to head over to Maya and V-Ray. Before I started, I configured V-Ray. The irradiance map and light cache remained because, in my opinion, they were the best choice in terms of rendering time.

Irradiance map and light cache settings

Irradiance map and light cache settings

All that was left then were the gamma and VRayFrameBuffer configurations, before I attacked the lighting aspect, that was.

Gamma configuration

Gamma configuration

The lighting part was a classical three-point process, with a gray/white shader that allowed me to configure the scene in a neutral fashion.

Lighting setup

Lighting setup

Neutral scene setup

Neutral scene setup

The only particular light parameter was a color temperature of 5500k, to give the scene a slightly warm tint.

Once this stage was complete, I moved on to shaders and assigning textures. I also configured the various rendering passes, which were EXR 32-bits.

Textures and texture settings

Render passes

Render passes

Compositing

The last phase was compositing in Nuke. This was a simple compositing process, which reminded me of gathering the photo references. I did a few colorimetric corrections and some ZDepth tuning, and added some chromatic aberrations and vignetting to get the final image render.

Compositing process

Compositing process

Final image render

Final image render

With a bit of spare time and by re-doing a bit of the rifle, I even managed to do the white version we see in the film!

White version of the weapon

White version of the weapon

Conclusion

This was an interesting model to make, and excellent training on Mari which offers many possibilities. I hope, in time to come, to have the time and opportunity to work on more complex scenes that will allow me to push these software packages to their limits!

Thanks to 3DTotal for allowing me to share this little project with you - I hope you like it! Until next time!